January 08, 2006

Page 6

From scott Sun Sep 29 17:49:38 2002
To: phoenixsmith@webtv.net
Subject: "Joe Random"

Hi, sorry to bother you directly, but you're the only person from match.com
that I've got a direct e-mail address for.  Would you do me a favor and let me
know if you saw the below e-mail from me, and if so whether you responded to
it or not?  I suspect there's a problem with my match.com e-mail, and I'm  
trying to verify that.


From: PhoenixSmith@webtv.net (Phoenix- Smith)
Date: Sun, 29 Sep 2002 21:17:00 -0700 (PDT)
To: scott@zorch.sf-bay.org (Scott Hazen Mueller)
Subject: Re: "Joe Random"

I had a bunch of trouble with my Match dot com too.  It took many letters and
a few phone calls so it should be ok now.

I was happy to receive your intelligent and witty reply...and this being my   
first contact with you through my private address, I will now respond.
After graduating from college, the place Scott had worked during college, a department of the City of Turlock, offered him a full-time contracting job. It was an easy choice to take it, since it allowed him to make the transition from student to independent adult relatively easily. He gamely attempted to negotiate the small-city politics, but after around 18 months he felt that things had become untenable and that it was time to head for the big city - Silicon Valley, the Mecca of the high-tech world. Staying in Turlock had been a way of just marking time, and he was of the opinion that the people that he needed to meet and socialize with, especially his hoped-for future mate, would most likely be found in a more cosmopolitan region.

Seen from the end, Scott's high-technology career was a line drive from point zero toward money, power and prestige. He started at the bottom, as a tech support engineer for a computer manufacturer called Pyramid Technology, working in their Remote Technical Operations Center, or RTOC. He spent 18 months honing his technical skills on the hardest problems a thousand customer sites could come up with, and when he determined that his bosses placed less value on his new skills and talents than their competition did, he took his bag of tricks to a minisupercomputer maker named Ardent. Shortly after he arrived at Ardent, they merged with their primary competitor, a firm on the East Coast called Stellar, producing Stardent, coincidentally a brand of toothpaste in the UK.

Around this time, Scott concluded that technical support was burnout city, so he jumped ship again, this time to the computer maker Tandem. At Tandem, he achieved his college goal - he found a comfortable niche in a large company and established a solid reputation as a competent technician in his new slot as a systems administrator. Tandem was good for nearly six years, during which time he advanced from being a lone wolf sysadmin buried in a minor group to being a very senior person on a team of nearly 40 people. In one of those coincidences that fate likes to throw at us to remind us that truth is indeed stranger than fiction, his boss at Tandem was a citizen of Turlock.

When interviewing for jobs around Silicon Valley, Scott was routinely asked where he expected to be in five years. He had always answered, as truthfully as he could, that he visualized achieving a technical peak and then moving into a management role. At Tandem after about 5 years he had reached his technical peak, so he started looking for that management role. At first, his chances seemed good - his group was growing, and new management positions were being created in his area of expertise. His Turlockian boss seemed enthusiastic when Scott inquired about filling one of these slots; then, suddenly, he backpedaled, mumbling something about being afraid of losing Scott if the promotion didn't work out.

Naturally, Scott was miffed. Furthermore, his attitude was, "You're afraid of losing me from promoting me? Fine, instead you can lose me from not promoting me."

While Scott was honing his technical skills at Tandem, making himself an expert in the technology of the Internet, specifically e-mail and related systems, something new was invented in Switzerland. At first, this World Wide Web was crude, but some bright programmers in Illinois created a program named Mosaic, and it became possible to "browse" this Web in a new way. One of the programmers at Tandem started experimenting with this Web thing and Scott got wind of it. It only took a short exposure, and he was hooked. In 1994, he built a web site, called it "www.tandem.com" and took off for six weeks of mandatory sabbatical before he could get in trouble for it. When he came back, he became Tandem's first Webmaster.

So, in 1995, when Marty was working on her master's degree, Scott started looking for his first post-Tandem opportunity. A new company, one named Netscape, advertised that it was hiring for a systems administrator. However, the attitude of the Netscape guy, some fellow named Marc Andreesen, stuck in Scott's craw, so he didn't apply for that job. Instead, he interviewed with an obscure San Francisco company called Worldview Systems. Worldview was teaming up with an arm of American Airlines, Sabre Interactive, to create an Internet travel site that would be named Travelocity.

The dream that his prospective boss sold him on was that Travelocity would be as big as Netscape, and that he would get to be the architect who would figure out what systems, how many and how big, would be needed to run the site. Scott would then manage those systems, and when the time came he would get to hire and manage a team to run the systems. Furthermore, he would get equity in the company and have a real chance at a serious financial reward. This was exactly what he was looking for, so Scott signed on. The Internet boom was starting, and he was there at the ground floor.

He worked his ass off bringing up his part of Travelocity. Worldview was an early customer for Netscape's server software, so he was able to wangle a visit to Netscape's corporate campus. There, he interviewed one of their experienced server engineers, getting an understanding of what it would take to build a site as big as Netscape's. He then returned to San Francisco, and built a nice conservative little site, sized to handle just 1/3rd of the load that Netscape handled on a daily basis, but easily expanded to be just as big as theirs.

Launch day came. The launch was staged on the East Coast, at 8AM in New York City. In order to have him and the other staffers available at 5AM in San Francisco, Worldview put them up in downtown San Francisco the night before. By a few minutes before 5, the entire crew was in place and ready for the big launch. Worldview was hosting the home page, www.travelocity.com, as well as subsidiary pages for information about destinations, chat groups about travel, and travel-related merchants. Sabre was hosting the airline flight information system and the reservations engine. Scott had hired two technicians to help him support the site; one was an old friend from Tandem who had done a stint at Netcom, an early Internet Service Provider.

Launch day went. The systems filled up to 10% of the capacity that Scott and his team had built - a mere 3% of the traffic that Netscape was bringing in. The business people made new deals, the content people added new content, and still the traffic level stayed stubbornly stuck at 300,000 hits per day, nowhere near the 10 million that had so confidently been forecast just a few short months before.

The way of the world in high tech is pretty consistent from company to company. If the company fails to hit sales forecasts, people get the axe. If the failure is consistent, the entire company gets the axe. Already, of the three companies Scott had worked at previously, two were basically gone. He knew that the inevitable outcome for his three-person team would be the loss of at least one headcount. Scott didn't really want to fire either one of his crew, so he did what he could to preserve their jobs - he found a new one for himself, just a year after joining Worldview and less than 8 months after the launch of Travelocity.

His new gig was as the employee of a small consulting firm led by a leading light of the Internet world. This man headed up the development of the software used as the underlying directory of the Internet, a package called BIND. Scott took the job because of his new boss's reputation in the community and despite the initial bad impression formed when his new boss met him in jeans with the crotch ripped out. Posted by scott at January 8, 2006 07:42 PM